The Theological Method of Augustine: “Slavery to Signs” in On Christian Doctrine

St Augustines On Christian Doctrine

In On Christian Doctrine, St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, promotes his view that the biggest error possible for an exegete can make is to take a figurative sign or narrative literally; to do so, betrays that one is only thinking in a “this worldly” carnal and nonspiritual sense and for Augustine is the root of idolatry and much error.

The importance of this insight in my own personal theology, and its importance to Calvin’s view of the Eucharist, Luther’s ideas, etc. have made this, in my own opinion, arguably one of the strongest critiques of “human religion,” a powerful corrective of carnal thinking, and hermeneutic control mechanisms for allegory to have arisen from the Western Church.

Let’s delve into Augustine’s thoughts as he presents them in On Christian Doctrine, and together learn to raise the mind to the contemplation of heavenly things.

Augustine’s platonic-apocalyptic leanings

In De Doctrina Christiana Augustine devotes a lot of time to developing his idea of “slavery to signs.”

His first sense of “signs” is physical. He lays at the root of paganism the fault of taking natural signs of God’s wonder for God himself, this position is easily granted. Yet, in the second sense, Augustine also argues for the exegetical rule that figurative language should be distinguished by its possible negative moral content (he is too early to forse subjective objections). This is a harder position to justify, yet Augustine in seeing scriptural events as symbolic does recall the apocalyptic literature tradition.

Augustine claims in his writings that literally interpreted biblical events, commands, or actions would lead one to act immorally or seem immoral, such acts need to be read as figurative language. Yet, when Augustine provides examples of this in action, he expands beyond what is commonly meant by the term figurative. He seeks to push his readers to seek hidden meanings behind historical actions.

Figurative is a complex term in Augustine’s use

Baptism of Saint Augustine
Initial L: The Baptism of Saint Augustine, about 1430, image courtesy of Getty Open project

Augustine’s anthropological/ sovereignty theology and platonic philosophic leanings play deeply into this widening term “figurative.” He regards not human actions, but the motivations or spirits behind the actions. as determinative of moral qualities. It may seem good but be of the devil. Seem bad but really save lives. Even more, he posits this “spiritual” reality, beyond that available through the senses, is the end goal of scriptural exegesis.

By determining the moral implications from spiritual motivations, it seems all real-world actions are for Augustine somewhat figurative for a hidden spiritual reality. Yet, he never makes a platonic claim that this reality means nothing or that this world is itself bad. He is far too concerned with “Christ in the Flesh” to make that error, and is more concerned to point out “things are not what they seem” and make interpretation of reality contingent of revelation by God’s Holy Spirit. The ideals are Greek inspired; they are very Christian.

 Still, because Augustine wants to push his readers in On Christian Doctrine to interpret things “spiritually,” and because of the broad denotations he grants the term figurative, in On Christian Doctrine Augustine’s use of the term figurative comes to encapsulate the ideal that the whole of reality as a metaphor for a deeper spiritual reality.

Some Philosophical Introduction to On Christian Doctrine before we really get into it

In approaching the text of On Christian Doctrine critically, it is important to note any historical or scholastic issues that bear upon the interpretation of the work.

Many scholars find the document a difficult read. An example is Robert Bernard, who in his report, “An unnoticed excursus in Augustine of Hippo’s De doctrina Christiana” writes about the text, “It is a challenge at times to follow the thread of [Augustine’s] arguments.”[i]

Bernard states the reason for this difficulty is that Augustine does not engage in a linear mode of augmentation at all in On Christian Doctrine. Instead, he points out Augustine utilizes a special philosophical rhetorical style that is purposefully nebulous. But it is not impossible to figure out

Bernard takes the position that the difficulty in reading the text originally arises from Augustine. Who, according to him, wrote a book about exegeses that must in turn be exegeted according to the exegetical ideals it contains in order to be understood.[ii] This means any serious reader, time and again, must cycle back and forth between relevant sections. You have to understand his principles to come to understand his principles.

There is a Key section though.

However, according to the same report, Bernard concludes that the core section of Book III of On Christian Doctrine serves as the “exegetical key” to the document. Therefore, it is an issue of utmost importance for a reader to first untie the “Gordian Knot,” as Bernard calls it, of Augustine’s ideals regarding what is meant by the term figurative, slavery to signs, and the related issues.

This works for me, because these are precisely the points I feel need to be taken from the document

And a brief historical note

Saint Augustine
Saint Augustine, Image Courtesy of Yale Un. Museum

Historically, the only issue effecting our interpretation of the document is raised Augustine himself, who in another work Retractations, wrote that On Christian Doctrine was started in c. A.D. 397 but was not completed until c. A.D. 426.[iii]

Luckily, For the scope of this examination, the issue of having to determine which “Augustine” is talking can be avoided, because we are not concerned with the latter additions as marked by Augustine in Book III. These additions include a section on Tychonius’ rules for exegesis, amended to Book III, and Book IV which primarily deals with preaching.

Those sections, which are not pertinent to our subject mean we need not consider the issue of time of writing. While we cannot for certain totally eliminate the redacting hand of an older Augustine, we can very easily say we are dealing primarily with the same “Augustine” throughout this exposition.

If you learn nothing else, Augustine’s “Slavery to Signs” is all you need.

For Augustine, it is of paramount importance that readers of scripture especially avoid reading figurative language as literal, or ascribing spiritual attributes to non-spiritual things, a mistake he calls “slavery to signs.”

Augustine writes, “he is in bondage to a sign who uses, or pays homage to, any significant object without knowing what it signifies.”[iv] Augustine references an earlier observations that,

Nothing is more fittingly called the death of the soul than when that in it which raises it above the brutes, the intelligence namely, is put in subjection to the flesh by a blind adherence to the letter. For he who follows the letter takes figurative words as if they were proper, and does not carry out what is indicated by a proper word into its secondary signification.[v]


Using this sentiment, he creates an exegetical axiom. This axiom simply put is, “a sign is such because it signifies something, but that the sign itself is not what it signifies.”

“Signs” explained – And Augustine’s Christian Particular-ism

Augustine becomes a tad confusing here, so I thought I’d make it easier to understand. I’m cutting out all nuance for the sake of explanation:

Take a Mountain, something that shows majesty and power.

  1. A Christian would say, that mountain shows “God’s divinity.”
  2. A Pagan, in Augustine’s thought, would say, “That mountain IS divinity.”

Augustine just takes things a step back most the time.

For example, a road sign may warn of a cliff, but the road sign itself is not a cliff even if there is an image of a Cliff on it.

Augustine speaks of understanding figurative language as understanding this difference. At times, he means metaphorical, but he does so in the context the reader “can see” the difference. Interpreting literally the road-sign’s picture of a cliff to be the cliff which it only metaphorically signifies, is also in Augustine a sign of the “blindness” of the unsaved/ non-believer.

He does not allow a “lose” spiritualism, but focuses all “spiritual readings” by the lens of God’s revelation.

Augustine’s own deployment of this ideal in Two cases.

As he expounds on what he means by servitude to signs, Augustine himself provides two examples of this in On Christian Doctrine, one related to the Jews and the other to the pagans.


In a faint echo of Paul in Galatians 3, he posits that the Jewish opponents of Jesus were mentally entrapped by a corporal understanding of the Law and of Israel as children under a schoolmaster. Augustine argues that it was this over attachment to the physical aspects of the Law that led the Jews to oppose Jesus, “…those who clung obstinately to such signs could not endure our Lord’s neglect of them when the time for their revelation had come.”[vi]

Augustine here utilizes his definition of a sign pointing to something other than itself, to proclaim that Jesus was trying to teach the spiritual meaning signified by the Jewish traditions in actions such as healing on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-6). He also makes use of his developed definition of folly, when he faults Jesus’ Jewish audience for ‘clinging to signs as if they were realities.[vii]

Augustine states that Jews could not see Jesus’ actions except as a breach of conduct, mainly because they could not see the spiritual sense of things. They could not see God’s movement through Sabbath breaking which only seemed bad; moreover, they misattributed his miracles.

Against Paganism

Rembrandt’s Daniel and Cyrus Before the Idol Bel, 1633

Having previously attacked astrology,[viii] augers, and other pagan practices of divination[ix] on the basis of their questionable logic or demonic nature,[x] Augustine now employees an alternative argument to explain pagan servitude to signs.

Citing the example of Neptune, he holds that the pagans had created a symbol of God to embody a physical thing, the sea. Augustine takes this example as normative for pagan idolatry; it misinterprets creation which is a sign that points towards the one creator echoing Paul in Romans 1.[xi]

Augustine, declares to worship the created objects is to “… take the thing itself [as that] which it was designed to signify, [and] is bondage to the flesh.”[xii]

Augustine has double motives in both cases. It’s not that he particularly wants to demonstrate that pagan spirituality, which Christians generally already held to be fallacious, is false to his readers. Nor is he trying to build a case that the Jews were wrong to reject Jesus, another claim his readers accept. He more wants to proves his definition of folly fits different cases. Pagans take a sign, creation, which points to God, as being itself the God it was pointing to. Jews take the Law verbatium.

Jesus, the liberator from signs

Having demonstrated how his metaphorical connotation of bondage to signs explains the pre-Jesus spiritual failings of Jews and Gentiles respectively, Augustine relates how Jesus corrects the “slavery to signs” of both the Jews and Gentiles.

For the Jews, Augustine feels that Jesus merely interpreted the signs to which they were so “near” and set them free from service to the signs to instead serve that to which the Law already pointed toward, God.

As for Gentiles, Augustine held that Jesus simply wiped the slate clean of their polytheistic paradigm and instead of setting up new signs for them to serve, provided them with the spiritual understanding of the Jewish signs and cured their spiritual blindness.

For Augustine, Jesus is the ultimate liberator from useless signs. Augustine speculates in Book 1 of On Christian doctrine that Jesus was taken up into heaven so that we would not over-focus on his physical or fleshy existence. And he stated that Jesus desires us “instead of weakly clinging to temporal things, even though these have been put on and worn by Him for our salvation, to pass over them quickly, and to struggle to attain unto Himself, who has freed our nature from the bondage of temporal things.”[xiii] For Augustine, Jesus is the keystone to understanding all signs, for he is in fact the “Way,” an archetypical sign pointing Godward.


Saint Anthony of Padua, about 1469,
Saint Anthony of Padua, about 1469, Legend has it the donkey wouldn’t eat the consecrated host but rather knelled to it.

Things like this are one reason Augustine’s apparent rejections to the ideal of “real-fleshly-presence” in communion carried such weight during the reformation as explored in my article on Communion and Calvin’s views on it. It is hard to posit Augustine accepting of a doctrine that makes a sacrament (a sign) into the very thing it signifies… especially when it opens moral objections of cannibalism.


But in the same breath, that gets us to why he’s not an “easy proof quote” against Roman doctrine either. He can be downright confusing. 

Augustine’s Moral Criteria for determining language is figurative. Sets us down a rabbit hole

He believes in an Objective Morality: God’s

Before Augustine, the theologian Origen had proposed exegetes use the ruler “of possibility” to determine whether scriptural passages were allegorical (metaphorically) or historically true.[xiv] But such a view sounds superficially at least to be an embodiment of Augustine’s warnings that we not be enslaved to our literal or worldly understandings; moreover, such advice tends towards subjectivity in the reader.

Augustine seems to be tacitly aware of the issue of subjective drift in interpretation, even when he posits his own rules for determining whether language is figurative or literal. Augustine bases his ruler for measuring figurative language within the sphere, he believes to have an objective ground, morality.[xv]

Augustine, holding that God has externally established the law objectively, contends it is an unchanging measure. So, while he nods to the fact human traditions may condone or condemn different things, God’s own moral code is unchanging.

Augustine’s sense of “Using Scripture to Interpret Scripture” is contextualized to morality

Therefore, in book 3, Chapter 10, Augustine declares that decisions to be made regarding taking a certain passage as literal hinges not on the readers’ impression of the believability of narrative content, as Origen had proposed (and even Augustine does himself in certain places), or their moral impression, but instead on the moral content of the passage as compared with the scriptural moral norms.

Augustine himself sums up this observation succinctly as a rule “Whatever there is in the word of God that cannot, when taken literally, be referred either to purity of life or soundness of doctrine, you may set [it] down as figurative.”[xvi]

In the first book of Augustine’s On Christian Doctrine, he expounds that the highest moral good is to enjoy God alone, he briefly reiterates a summation of the first book to define what is moral:

I mean by [morality} that affection of the mind which aims at the enjoyment of God for His own sake, and the enjoyment of one’s self and one’s neighbor in subordination to God; by lust I mean that affection of the mind which aims at enjoying one’s self and one’s neighbor, and other corporeal things, without reference to God[xvii]

Augustine it seems subsumes all moral quandaries under the bounds of the greatest commandment (Matt 22: 36-40), and includes the love of neighbor as subservient to the love of God.

This makes for interesting times when rendering figuratively may not be appropriate against shocking content, such as the expulsion of the Canaanites or David’s battles. As such, Augustine’s method here is not, I believe, an attempt at theophany.

Augustine’s Moral “figurative” and Platonic “Figurative” and English word use make this a confusing topic…

After establishing his “moral” exegetical system, Augustine puts it to use and launches into a long series of reflections on when negative actions or moral commandments are ascribed to God and saints.

Augustine seems to quickly dump his own idea though, and makes an interesting move:

…only sayings or whether actual deeds, are wholly figurative… Nobody in his sober senses would believe, when our Lord’s feet were anointed by the woman with precious ointment, it was for the same purpose for which luxurious and profligate men are accustomed to have theirs anointed.[xviii]

Augustine calls “figurative” events that have no seemingly negative moral implications and that he seems to hold to be historical.

And this is where things get really tricky. Initially in Augustine’s statements on bondage to signs in regards to the “morality of statements,” “signs,” could be marked out pure metaphors or allegories only.

In this above text, and seemingly many of the other cases we have explored so far however, Augustine develops an idea of “signs” as events that have a “hidden” meaning. Augustine provides several statements that further broaden what Augustine means by “figurative” moving away from a strictly metaphorical sense.

This makes for some odd readings

Augustines odd moral reasoning on Bathsheba
Bathsheba Bathing, 1498 – 1499

There arises at this point a conflict within his interpretations. Augustine tries to demonstrate that his new axiom can transform the implications of actions that seem to be moral lessons against moral failures into their true reality as wholly positive lessons.

Augustine wrote a chapter explaining that David was neither subject to lust when he slept with Bathsheba nor was he truly murderous when he had her husband killed to hide his shame.[xix] The reader almost feels embarrassed for Augustine’s sake when he explains how the lesson is figurative, that David’s “good” intentions of having children were only misguided to the wrong source.

Twisting this passage so, Augustine exonerates a horrible moral failure. On the whole his examples trend towards this extreme; such as, his use of polygamy among the patriarchs to say monogamous men who have sexual attraction towards their wives are too lustful.

Augustine’s examples are being bent to fit into his ideals, and the distortion is visible.  His interpretations unfortunately are unconvincing and unrelated to the texts themselves.[xx]

But at the same time, he doesn’t keep them

Augustine then provides a chapter that forces the reader to ask some more questions. In Book three chapter twenty-three of On Christian Doctrine he states:

And when he reads of the sins of great men, although he may be able to see and to trace out in them a figure of things to come, let him yet put the literal fact to this use also, to teach him not to dare to vaunt himself in his own good deeds, and in comparison with his own righteousness, to despise others as sinners, when he sees in the case of men so eminent both the storms that are to be avoided and the shipwrecks that are to be wept over. For the sins of these men were recorded to this end, that men might everywhere and always tremble at that saying of the apostle: “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”(5) For there is hardly a page of Scripture on which it is not clearly written that God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble.

By this statement, Augustine puts back onto the table a worldlier reading of David and Bathsheba, one that allows us to see the sin of this “Great Man.”

The question becomes, why did Augustine attempt to read it figuratively and shift the meaning of “figurative” to provide readings that seemed so forced and ill-advised?

Philosophic Matters: I am not sure Augustine was of one mind when he wrote On Christian Doctrine

To answer this quandary, it is necessary to investigate the scholarly consensus towards what trends Augustine’s philosophical and theological thinking was developing before he wrote On Christian Doctrine.

Phillip Cary sums this up succinctly in his book Outward Signs: The Powerlessness of External Things in Augustine’s Thought. According to Cary:

 Augustine believes that things we can sense are signs of higher things. In his early treatise On Order, he argues that works of nature and art, including human speech, are signs of an underlying “reason” creating them. From the time of his writing On Dialectic onward, he classifies words as a type of sign and treats linguistic meaning as a form of signification. Combining these two ideals required a notion of expressive gesticulation absent from Greek semiotics but common in Latin rhetoric, where bodily gestures are said to signify the movements of the soul. In on Augustine’s treatise On Christian Doctrine it all comes together.[xxi]

What becomes apparent in the whole of Cary’s work is that in Augustine’s other contemporanious writings On Order and On Dialectic Augustine starts to explore the normal Greek constructs of forms and ideas as they relate to senses conveying information.

However, per Carey, Augustine also investigated how the mind transmits rational ideas and meanings into movement. Augustine makes the important realization that we use bodily language such as sign language or a vibrating throat to transmit ideas.

Throughout the first three books, he states that the baseline issue of morality is the source of the impulse towards a given action. In book one, Augustine seems to indicate that love is a neutral moral action that when turned towards God becomes positive[xxii]  and when turned towards other things is lust.

Yet, when Augustine more fully extrapolates “lust” that it becomes apparent he sees it as a more nefarious “spiritual” driving force.

Therefore, Augustine speaks of “lust’s dominion” as a real spiritual thing, driving men towards negative actions.[xxiii] Contrasting vice to virtue, Augustine sees God as a driving force towards moral actions.

In investigating how Augustine handles phrases like “wrath of God” we can start to piece together how this spiritually driven anthropology shows through his thinking. “Wrath” for Augustine is a negative driving force, and he cannot see it working through the divine person as an actor for moral good. Wrath then is conversely spiritually evil.

He such spiritual oxymorons figurative “some words are used figuratively, as for example, ‘the wrath of God’.”[xxiv] Conversely, when he states “charity” moves people towards righteousness he seems to be equally implying that charity is a real spiritual force driving humans towards good actions. Because he sees different “spiritual” forces driving actions, he can claim that “For it is possible that a wise man may use the daintiest food without any sin of epicurism or gluttony, while a fool will crave for the vilest food with a most disgusting eagerness of appetite.”[xxv] For Augustine then, like we claimed earlier, we can at least assume that the spiritual motivators are the deciding factor in whether an action is moral or not.

Rectifying the issue as best I can: Figuratively-literal

Augustine defines all ascriptions to negative spiritual forces driving God or the saints as allegorical. But when we really dig into his anthropology, the “good actions” are also figurative for good spiritual forces at work inside the saints or God. But these two are literal.

So, while Augustine would like us to use his moral anthropology to define figurative and literal language; it is like he is asking that we “spiritualize” the entire Bible, and only deem ascriptions of negative spirits to God or the saints as special instances that provide a “hidden kernel of meaning they contain is to be picked out as food for the nourishment of charity.”

Literal is apparently a throw away phrase that Augustine uses only to mark something as non-figurative when it suits the flow of his argumentation. But if we again look out into Augustine’s wider nexus of thought in his other works. I think we can piece back why this is not really the case.

The non-existence of evil.

Augustine in his other writings does not hold that “evil” is a polar existence to good. For him it is much more the absence of Good.[xxvi] So, his argument in On Christian Doctrine is incomplete without that little tidy bit of information.

Augustine is trying to balance a spirit that “Is” that drives people towards good… and a spirit that “is not” driving people towards bad. He want’s statements that “aren’t” to be taken towards what is.

This ontology is, in my opinion ridding back seat to this whole “some is literal” but “then again it’s all figurative” language. And why he can have David as morally righteous and an object lesson about sin all in the same action.

If evil is a “non” than the “literalness” of any action is only the good shown in any narrative is “true.” The morally negative aspects of the narrative are just spots were “goodness” is missing. For a quick breakdown try this site. 

Maybe, Augustine has pulled a last fast one on his reader.

Sin, evil… they for him are signs.

But they are signs that signify nothing at all.

St Augustine
St. Augustine, Image courtesy of LACMA

 Re-reading his exegetical book, On Christian Doctrine, using his same exegetical method

In re-reading this spiritualized view of morality back into his explanation of bondage to the signs, it changes the interpretations.

For he is speaking not so much about signs imparting meaning, such as a sign telling you there is a cliff ahead; he is in reality saying that signs/words/actions are signs like the surface of water. All we see is the superficial tribulations of the surface, but his desire is for us to plunge into the “spiritual” depths below that are driving the visual disturbances.

It is not a question of seeing if an action or story occurred or not, it is more about realizing that there are active depths below the superficial surface of this world. Augustine’s ascription of both good and evil (or the lack of good) to different people who participate in similar actions is possible, because the waves we see don’t matter but the currents that drive them do.

Taking this out into the wider Theological debates

There are some questions of how far we can agree with Augustine’s core anthropology as presented in On Christian Doctrine and elsewhere. Augustine never provides any concise definition of it.  Those who hold to Armenian, Open Theology, and similar thinkers would surely disagree with its implications for doctrines such as predestination, human free will, and moral culpability. Augustine is historically noted for his avocation of doctrines such as election and predestination, and his anthropology of humans being driven by external “spiritual” forces may strike many as denying free will. While I find Augustine’s application of his ideals to be questionable, I still think there is some truth to his ideals of “spiritual forces” driving individuals in their innermost selves; nevertheless, consigning the morality of an issue only to the spirit that moves you to it is akin to creating a morality of “the devil made me do it” and further gives us pause.

But, this does not mean Augustine’s ideas in On Christian Doctrine are without precedent or tied inexorably with his predestination doctrine. According to Robert Webb in his paper, The apocalyptic debate: recent discussions on apocalyptic genre, some scholars hold that there is a long tradition of apocalyptic writers that may have had similar viewpoints. While Webb seems to recommend only an eclectic case by case approach to specific entries in the genera, he was not in disagreement with scholars who held that apocalyptic writers took real world events and spiritualized their description of them. Equally so, he agreed with the consensus among scholars who claime these writers believed real world events could encompass huge apocalyptic metaphors.[xxvii] I think it says something important in favor of Augustine’s ideas that he has such a biblical connection.

Concluding reflections

Augustine did indeed attempt to write an exegetical book that needs to be fully digested in order to be understood. And in some ways the fractures in the books layout transfer over as impurities when we try to distill Augustine’s thoughts. Many questions are raised that this document simply cannot answer. While Augustine states that God’s moral code is objective, he never delineates what is the moral code is, beyond saying it fulfills the first two commandments. Because he does not address any other ethical issues, any attempt to read him into those issues or to read those into on Christian Doctrine would be speculative.

Augustine’s use of bad examples is also unfortunate. One, it unnecessarily detracts and distracts from Augustine’s core arguments. I think this arises from his questionable attempt to try and explain all biblical events like human actions as “figurative” while using different connotations of the word figurative simultaneously. Biblically, Augustine he could say God (a good spirit) gave all commandments, but he transfers that uncritically towards human actions such as David’s with Bathsheba to try and force a lust-free reading. Philosophically, Augustine could have split the concepts of metaphor and hidden meaning by employing a second term like allegory. And in all of this Augustine loses his definition of literal by blending it with terms like corporal or worldly, and it finally disappears entirely when the spiritual aspects of his world view drive all language to figurative. Literal at times seems like it is a good symbol while figurative simply means it is a hidden good sign.

Augustine warns mainly in On Christian Doctrine against take a figurative sign or narrative literally; in determining the moral implications of all actions from spiritual motivations, Augustine makes real life figurative. Augustine also argues that figurative language should be distinguished by its possible negative moral content. Yet, when Augustine provides examples of this in action, he expands the term figurative to define a hidden meaning behind all historical actions not just the bad. Because Augustine sees all human actions “spiritually;” he uses a broad definition of the term figurative to encapsulate the whole of reality as a metaphor for a deeper spiritual reality. In so doing Augustine taps into not only his Greek philosophy, but he seems to retain the Hebraic apocalyptic weltanschauung.

Read the actual document here


Sources used

Augustine, On Christian Doctrine in A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church ed. Phillip Schaff, Charleston: Nabu Press, 2010;

Augustine, The Retractations trs. Mary Inez Bogen, Washington: Catholic University Press, 1968. 

Bernard , Robert William “An unnoticed excursus in Augustine of Hippo’s De doctrina” presented at The 162st Annual Conference of The American Society of Church History, April 24-27, 1997, Nashville, TN, 

Cary, Phillip Outward Signs: The Powerlessness of External Things in Augustine’s thought New York: Oxford Press, 2008; 

Origen, On First Principles: Book Four in Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church ed./tr. Karlfried Froehlich. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984

[i]Robert William Bernard “An unnoticed excursus in Augustine of Hippo’s De doctrina” (presented at The 162st Annual Conference of The American Society of Church History, April 24-27, 1997, Nashville, TN)

[ii] Ibid. Pg 15-16, 20-end

[iii] Augustine, The Retractations trs. Mary Inez Bogen (Washington: Catholic University Press, 1968) 

[iv] Augustine, On Christian Doctrine in A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church ed. Phillip Schaff (Charleston: Nabu Press, 2010)

[v] Ibid., Bk. III, Ch. V

[vi] Ibid. Bk. III, Ch. VI

[vii] Ibid. loc. Cit.

[viii] Ibid. Bk. II, Ch. XXI,XXII

[ix]  Ibid. Bk. II, Ch. XXII

[x] Ibid. Bk. II, Ch. XXIII

[xi] Ibid. Bk III, Ch. XII

[xii] Ibid. Loc. cit.

[xiii] Ibid. Bk. I, Ch. XXXIV

[xiv] Origen, On First Principles: Book Four in Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church ed./tr. Karlfried Froehlich (Philadelphia : Fortress Press, 1984) Cf. pg. 62

[xv] Augustine, On Christian Doctrine,  Bk. III, Ch. XIV

[xvi] Ibid. Bk. III, Ch. X

[xvii] Ibid. Bk. III, Ch. X

[xviii] Ibid. Bk. III, Ch. XII 

[xix] Ibid Bk. III, Ch. XXI

[xx] Ibid. Bk. III, Ch XII: “Those things, again, whether only sayings or whether actual deeds, which appear to the inexperienced to be sinful, and which are ascribed to God, or to men whose holiness is put before us as an example, are wholly figurative, and the hidden kernel of meaning they contain is to be picked out as food for the nourishment of charity  – Jacob’s love of Rebecca and dislike for Leah for me are in and of themselves enough to highly contest his conclusions

[xxi] Phillip Cary Outward Signs: The Powerlessness of External Things in Augustine’s thought (New York: Oxford Press, 2008); )

[xxii] Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, Bk. II, Ch. XXII

[xxiii] Ibid. Bk. III, Ch. XI

[xxiv] Ibid. Bk. III, Ch. XI

[xxv] Ibid. Bk. III, Ch. XI 

[xxvi]  Augustine, The City of God, XI, CHAP. 9.

[xxvii] Robert Webb, “The apocalyptic debate: recent discussions on apocalyptic genre the Theological Research Exchange Network , 1987

Post Author

Paul is the founder of and a life long Christian with a childhood interest in systematic theology. He holds an M.Div. from Fuller Theological seminary and hopes to use his education to better his fellow man. He also operates an automotive blog, has worked at Google, and has diverse life interest.

reformedmonk – who has written posts on Religible.

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